My good friend J of the UK, a matey chap if ever there was one, alerted me to a grooooovy YouTube filmette.
It is in an entry over at the wonderful Roman Miscellany. I can’t believe I missed this one (20 May).
Here is eminent Fr. Schofield’s description:
Change of Habit
As I sit here at my computer, I can clearly hear the drums and shouts from our monthly Nigerian Mass. For some reason it made me think of the final scene of Elvis’ last movie, Change of habit (1969), which presents the rather novel spectacle of Mr Presley singing and playing the guitar at what seems to be an interim Mass (just before the 1970 Missal). The celebrant is ad orientem and the offertory procession is unusually reverent. I love the grumpy priest! Do any American readers recognise the church?
The film is all about Sister Michelle (Mary Tyler Moore) meeting a doctor (Elvis) whilst on pastoral placement. You’ll be pleased to know that in the end she defeats temptation and dumps Elvis in order to go back to the convent.
Apparently it was filmed in the chapel of Mayfield Senior School, Pasadena, CA (USA), a college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12 established in 1931 by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus.
This wouldn’t have looked as wacky in 1970 as it looks now. It looks very crass and weird now.
Since I was born 6 years after this movie was made, I have to ask… Was the clash of cultures really so dramatic at the time? Because to this Catholic who has known either the TM or the NO, this mix of the two seems REALLY bizarre.
Gee, a happy-clappy praise-and-worship ditty up in front of the congregation was distracting to the nun. I thought this type of music was supposed to help with “active participation”.
Poor Hollywood!Their attempts at portraying the Catholic Church seriously come of as wacky.This ludicrous scene is one of my favorites as is the procession scene in the monstrously awful movie Monsignor with Christopher Reeves.Beleive me when I saw this movie (Change of Habit) in the movie theatre ( I actually paid to see it) I found it ridiculous.
In 1970, it was really that goofy, yes.
Buona Domenica, Padre! Thanks for the link from your eminent blog – and enjoy your retreat to the Sabine Farm. Looking forward to seeing you in London at some point?
Fr. Schofield: We really ought to cook up some plot along those lines. Let’s think of something.
Here is Elvis singing about the Rosary.
1) I found a certain emotional intensity in the rapid shots alternating between the singer and the sacred images. I think one can already sense which way the young sister will go.
2) One finds in a great many catholic churches music as inappropriate as this, but never as well performed.
I was most amused by the two elderly ladies with one saying, “I liked the old days when we could go to Mass and not think about a blessed thing” LOL.
I took Nancy N on a date to see this movie. We were juniors at the Catholic High School. I agreed to go because she was an Elvis fan. I was not, evidenced by my having bought, on the same day, a two record album of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (sung in Church Slavonic by the Don Cossack’s Chorus). Even at that young age I was struck by how far taste in music in the Catholic Church had declined in a few short years. From our standpoint as devout Catholics school kids, the movie seemed quite quaint for a lot of reasons (that silly MTM habit and the nuns with Maybelline eyes, not to mention the awkward way both MTM and Elvis genuflected and made the sign of the cross). It did not seem, though, that the guitar swivelling, hand clapping and bland words were too far off from what was being foisted on us at the Masses at the high school. We had jumpy tunes and even jumpier guitar players at every Mass (uh, I mean liturgy, as we were now instructed to call it). Unfortunately we had no old grumpy priests to oppose those anti-Cultural shenaningans. I think I had figured out even then that we were in for the long haul. That same year our Roman Catholic High School dropped third year Latin (I protested – to no avail – and turned my efforts to learning Russian at a local college). Four decades later I await a motu proprio…
Et in Domino spero.
P.S. Is this scene really so different from today’s widepsread lack of liturgical decorum?
Mother Dolores (Hart), O.S.B., of Regina Laudis, a very traditional Benedictine Abbey in Bethlehem, CT, who had starred opposite Elvis but left a very promising Hollywood career to become a cloistered Benedictine, told me one day when I visited the convent that Elvis was “very, very respectful toward me and very well-mannered.” She added, “And yes, I did get to kiss him in that movie!” At some point he must have heard that she had left “the industry” to enter the convent . . . and I wonder if he thought of her while he was making this movie?
Gee, a happy-clappy praise-and-worship ditty up in front of the congregation was distracting to the nun. I thought this type of music was supposed to help with â€œactive participationâ€.
No, it was Elvis that was distracting Sister Mary Tyler Moore.
Anyway, I LOVE this clip. And I love the movie. It cracks me up.
I remember masses like this one. We didn’t have the drums and our singing wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as at this mass, but we had an Elvis-ish type song leader who sang groovy songs that he wrote. The rest of the mass was quite proper.
P.S. Is this scene really so different from todayâ€™s widepsread lack of liturgical decorum?
One more thing. Many here may see this as a lack of liturgical decorum and certainly, the music does not go with the solemn tone of the rest of the liturgy portrayed in this movie.
But, if we are going to have folk-ish or rock-ish music, I’d much rather have it be as joyous as in the movie. It would be like a breath of fresh air.
There’s nothing worse than modern church music done badly. Which is mostly what I hear.
There’s nothing worse, unless it is traditional church music sung as a dirge.
I loved this movie, too — and I remember how the whole audience cracked up when the two elderly ladies made their comment! Liturgical wackiness aside, the final scene where MTM made her choice was appropriate considering the context. It was all pretty funny, because most of us in the audience knew quite well that H’wood never gets “Catholic stuff” right!
That clip is enormously irreverant.It is absolutrly absurd and disturbing.
How dare the Holy Sacrifice of the mass be demeaned in that way.
Our Lord is very offended by this trashing of His Solemn Sacrifice.
I felt nauseated watching it and I am sorry I did.
What an abomination.
God have mercy on anyone responsible for this profanity.
This is almost like Mass every Sunday here in upstate SC, at any number of Catholic Churches. At least it seems that way.
“The film is all about Sister Michelle (Mary Tyler Moore) meeting a doctor (Elvis) whilst on pastoral placement. Youâ€™ll be pleased to know that in the end she defeats temptation and dumps Elvis in order to go back to the convent.”
Art imitates life. Here’s what Mary Tyler Moore told Larry King (on his May 3, 2003 broadcast) about making a movie with Elvis:
KING: What did your movie career consist of? How many — you did a movie with Elvis?
MOORE: I was his last leading lady.
MOORE: And he was then to go on — he played a singing surgeon and he was trying to break the image of the Las Vegas.
KING: A singing doctor?
MOORE: A singing surgeon and I was an out of habit nun. The title of the movie was “Change of Habit.” Elvis was later to say, “I slept with every one of my leading ladies except one.” I know who the one is. Sorry to break anyone’s cover out there, but…
P.S. Is this scene really so different from todayâ€™s widepsread lack of liturgical decorum?
Other than Elvis sings better. ;)
Granted, the movie’s “folk mass” scene was silly and undignified, but at least Hollywood was trying to portray Catholicism in a semi-favorable light. At least the nun did the right thing in this story, and remained faithful to her vows. Hollywood has since done much much worse concerning CAtholicism and Christinity in general.
But I have a question that is sincere: Does music at Mass HAVE to be solemn and dignified in order to be “proper”?
(I’m thinking of the current Hispanic influence on liturgical music, and they are much livelier and bring a festive mood into the mass. A bit of that is quite refreshing, in my way of thinking.)
But I have a question that is sincere: Does music at Mass HAVE to be solemn and dignified in order to be â€œproperâ€?
(Iâ€™m thinking of the current Hispanic influence on liturgical music, and they are much livelier and bring a festive mood into the mass. A bit of that is quite refreshing, in my way of thinking.
Janet – AMEN!!!
Janet: Does music at Mass HAVE to be solemn and dignified in order to be â€œproperâ€?
I’m not certain precisely how to characterize “proper” liturgical music. But I do have another question.
We know that the sacrifice of the Mass is the re-presentation of the sacrifice of the Cross. The Mass makes the sacrifice of Cross present to us, and us present at it. With the saints and angels, we are present there at the foot of the Cross.
So the question is, if you are standing there gazing up at our Lord hanging crucified on the Cross, is your mood festive. Would you think festive and lively music, music that really makes you feel good, the most appropriate for that moment?
A good question indeed. And perhaps the answer might be that at varying parts of the mass, the tone of music would shift from joyous to solemn. Perhaps the entrance hymn could be more joyous, even to the point of exhuberance. Same for the Gloria and the Alleluia.
Then into the liturgy of the Eucharist the music of course would become more solemn as a proper reflection of the mood you mentioned. Same for the one (and only one, please!) hymn during reception of Communion.
Finally, the recessional hymn could again take up a more joyous expression, reviving the initial festive tone at the beginning of Mass? Just my thoughts, for what they are worth….
The details of the “interim” Mass are interesting but unusual, at least from the perspective of Ireland and the UK, in that as far as I remember Mass in 1969 (I was 8 or 9), ad orientem had almost totally gone. Even my extremely traditional school chapel reoriented the high altar by 1968 – which was reckoned as being very late. And the clip also shows the women in the offertory procession laying the gifts on the altar. That would NEVER have been allowed over here –
in fact there was no offertory procession pre-1970 and laypeople were never allowed beyond the rail. But the hats on the ladies certainly remind me of some of the *ahem* confections worn by my mother at that period :)
The chaplain at Oxford used to reminisce about a Mass he had attended in the crypt of Liverpool Cathedral. The priest began with the prayers at the foot of the altar, ascended the steps, kissed the altar …. turned round, waited, a server stepped forward, bowed and presented a guitar, which the priest accepted, they bowed to each other, the priest slung the guitar strap over over his Roman vestment, and launched into Kum-ba-yah.
And perhaps the answer might be that at varying parts of the mass, the tone of music would shift from joyous to solemn. Perhaps the entrance hymn could be more joyous, even to the point of exhuberance. Same for the Gloria and the Alleluia.
A good answer, Janet. There’s certainly a pertinent distinction here somewhere. The Gloria and Alleluia, however properly liturgical, wouldn’t fit at the very foot of the Cross. And, regarding the recessional, I recall the gloriously triumphant Hail Holy Queen that Father Z posted from the Assumption Mass where he preached last year.
Great song and performance by a great troubadour.
Just the wrong, wrong environment.
I am 50 and can remember a little of 1970…”Let it Be” somehow seemed reverent though compared to this.